As you usher in the summer, what are your plans? Are you planning a trip to the mountains or the beach or a getaway vacation? For the animal lover, your best trip may never require you to leave your home town. Depending on where you are in the country, you may have access to the greatest learning experiences and opportunities just by visiting your local zoo or aquarium.
Did you know that the month of June is set aside as the National Month of Zoos and Aquariums? Will you observe this time of the year by frequenting a zoo or aquarium, or are you on the other side of the fence and prefer to avoid seeing animals in captivity? Here at AnimalPlex, we understand the conflict. And we want to engage in the dialogue. Since this month honors Zoos and Aquariums in the United States, though, we would like to look at some of the great things zoos do in the conservation and research areas and how zoos can be a beneficial experience to human and animal alike.
National Zoos and Aquariums Month is celebrated each year as a way to honor the part that zoos and aquariums play in research, education, conservation, and recreation. National Zoos and Aquariums Month is also intended to promote and encourage more people (individuals and families) to frequent US zoos and aquariums.
Zoos continue to grow and improve their habitats as researchers learn more about animals in captivity, animal health, and environmental concerns. If you haven’t been to a zoo in recent history, you may be amazed at how the habitats more closely resemble natural environments, the space the animals have, and the restrictions and requirements that are required to house certain animals in certain locations. A good zoo will not take on animals in which they do not have the resources or space available to properly house and care for them. (Elephants are often highlighted in this section because of the shear space needed to properly care for them. Many zoos that would have previously housed elephants no longer do so, instead opting to send their animals to more spacious and research oriented facilities.)
In addition to the improvement in the health and welfare of the captive animals, zoos also are placing more of a focus on human education- on the children- the future zoologists, biologists, and conservationists that are still growing. With curriculum, handouts, child-friendly signage, tour groups, field trips, summer camps, and homeschool classes, the sky is the limit for our future scientists. And there is no better time to “catch the science bug” as in childhood, when amazement and creativity is at its highest!
The research and conservation that comes from zoos and aquariums is staggering. Some of the best knowledge we have to help protect our most vulnerable species, comes from the zoos’ research teams. Learning about reproduction habits, preferred habitats, behaviour, and preferences can mean the difference between survival and extinction in some of the world’s most vulnerable species.
Furthermore, zoos give people- especially children- and opportunity to see wildlife they may otherwise never have known existed outside of pictures. Seeing these animals up close will hopefully spark an interest in children that will last a lifetime, and hopefully that interest will lead a few of them to change the world for all of animal kind.